Obama Extends Faith-Based Advisory Council for Two More Years

Last Friday, in addition to hosting the Easter Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama issued an executive order to extend his faith-based advisory council, the effectiveness of which has been criticized in the past, for another two years.

In the executive order, the president stated that the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be terminated on April 5, 2015, unless the president chooses to extend it longer.

In the order, Obama also confirmed that the faith-based council cannot go against U.S. law, nor can it impair any administrative, budgetary, or legislative proposals of the government.

According to the White House's official website, the purpose of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is to "bring together leaders and experts in fields related to the work of faith-based and neighborhood organizations in order to make recommendations to government on how to improve partnerships."

The council focuses specifically on advising the president on how to improve social services and public policies relating to faith-based and local organizations. 

Much of the advisory council's recent focus has been on human trafficking, and the White House held a Forum to Combat Human Trafficking on Tuesday to discuss the progress of the administration regarding the issue.

The advisory council has previously been criticized for being ineffective and virtually disappearing from the radar of the Obama administraiton. 

As Politico reported in February 2012 that the council disbanded in 2010 and then remained inactive until 2012.

Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland evangelical church in Florida and former council member, told Politico in 2012 that he questioned the council's effectiveness in Obama's decision making regarding religious issues.

"Whenever there is a huge blowback on any move, there is a hesitancy and a questioning of are we still taken into consideration before something is put out," Hunter said of the council's effectiveness last year.

Hunter added, however, that the faith-based council shows that Obama does truly understand his responsibilities to the community as a Christian. 

"This part of the administration is really an expression of who he is as a Christian," Hunter told Politico.

"All of this work that is being done is not simply good government, it is also a genuine part of how he understands his own responsibilities and his own faith," the megachurch pastor added.

Obama extended his faith-based council following his annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, held at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday, and attended by an array of Christian clergy, including Bishop T.D. Jakes of Potter's House in Texas; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed in Florida, among others.

At the prayer breakfast, the president spoke candidly on his Christian faith, saying:

"In these sacred days, those of us as Christians remember the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for each of us –- how, in all His humility and His grace, He took on the sins of the world and extended the gift of salvation," Obama told the many religious leaders present at the breakfast.

"And we recommit ourselves to following His example – to loving the Lord our God with all our hearts and all our souls and with all our minds, and to loving our neighbors as ourselves," the president added.

As The Christian Post previously reporterd, George W. Bush implemented the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2001 to increase government-funded social service grants to faith-based organizations seeking to better their communities.

The advisory council, which includes evangelical leaders such as Leith Anderson of the NAE and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, is reportedly scheduled to meet on Wednesday, although it is still unclear if the president will be joining the meeting. 

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